Advice on el cheapo gaming system

So I’m almost done with a major year-long work project, and my reward to myself is that I’m replacing my buggy slow annoying old 2007 computer (that I bought when I got hired at my job). I use my computer for gaming, but I’m by no means a graphics freak: as long as the FPS rate is greater than say 15 I seriously am unlikely to notice. Pretty is good, but I’m not going to pay out the butt for it. I just want to be able to play games that are coming out today: Company of Heroes, for example, slows my machine down pretty badly during the more intense sequences.

I’m not replacing the monitor. I’ve got a 2 Gb stick of relatively new memory, plus two old 1 Gb sticks, although maybe none of them will be useable in the new machine. I have a decent wireless keyboard and mouse. I can get Office through work. So all I’m looking for is a desktop box plus video-card plus Windows 7.

And here’s the kicker: I’d like to spend less than $400 on the box. I’ll then spend maybe $100 or in that range on a video card.

Some questions
-Am I insane to think I can do this? (I know it’ll be a cheap system, but I figure some folks will want to call me insane, so here’s your chance).
-Are refurbished systems worth looking at? I’ve been windowshopping at TigerDirect (since I get a 5% discount there), and the refurbished systems tend to be very cheap, but I’m not sure what their reliability record is.
-Does anyone see any particular system that I should snap up? I’m willing ot make the purchase any time between now and the end of March–I’d really like to have the machine show up by April 8 or earlier.
-Is there anything in particular I should be looking into? All I really know to look for is at least 4Gb RAM and a fast processor, but at this point I don’t even know how to read processor speeds. I’m happy to go with Athlon.
-Is there any prebuilt brand right now that has a wide bad reputation that I should therefore avoid?

I’m happy to do a barebones kit + Windows, if that’d be cheaper or more reliable than buying a prefab.


We’ve heard repeatedly from the PC Mafia on this board how you could get a good gaming PC for the price of a 360 or PS3. Nows their chance to prove it.

I’m dubious.

Oh wait, we have a emoticon for this


Cubsfan, don’t you dare turn this into a console vs. PC war!

I’d think its pretty easy to do, I think. If you bought the parts in my current PC now it would be something like 500$ and it plays modern games fine. You should see if you can use the Windows license from your current PC though, as the OS would probably put you over the 500 limit.

Here’s Toms Hardware specs for a 500$ gaming PC dated a few months ago. That site has plenty of similar articles with varying suggestions.

If I was going to spend $400 + $100 on a gaming PC, I’d buy a used system from someone who upgraded to Sandy Bridge.

What’s the spec you have now? It may be wiser to spend $200 or so on that and then something pricer later on down the road.

I don’t think anyone has said you can build a PC from scratch for $200 (or $250 or whatever xboxes go for) that would be good. Can you find me a post that says that anywhere?

I’ve said repeatedly that if you have a modern not-horrible PC, all it generally takes to turn it into a capable gaming machine that will crush consoles is a video card, and you can get quite a bit of video card for under the $200-300 a console would cost you.

If you’re going to have a PC anyway for general use, then you’re going to have spent the money on it anyway. That’s a sunk cost. The only relevant additional cost is what it takes to turn it into a “gaming pc”, which is generally just a video card.

You either have to acknowledge that most people would’ve had a computer anyway and paid those costs, or if you’re counting the whole cost, then you have to acknowledge the massive utility in having a general purpose fast high quality PC.

As for the OP: You’d need to tell us what sort of system you’ve got now, or at least what the RAM is, for us to tell you if that’s usable in the future system. We’d need a list of specs to figure out what you could carry over into the new system.

$500 isn’t crazy if you’ve got a windows license to transfer over. I don’t know anything about prebuilts really, but I could put together a pretty solid core 2 system for that price. Give us what specifics you can about the hardware you have, and I can try to build you a parts list if you have any interest in building one yourself.

Here ya go. I bought my last system from these guys about a month ago; they’re legit.

The system as-is goes for $398 with free shipping, but you’ll notice on the page I linked that you can customize the specs however you like. If you change the case to the APZ Turbo III, which is what I have, you knock off $36, which you can use to bump up your processor to a quad-core 3GHz if you like (or just put the savings toward a graphics card). If you can live with 6GB DDR3 instead of 8, that’ll save you another $22. Once you add a decent video card, this’ll run most anything going if you don’t care about maxing out graphics settings.

One caveat; that price is assuming you have a Windows license to transfer. If not, they’ll install Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit for another $99.

Y’all are awesome–thanks for the ideas and links! One question: how do I go about transferring the Windows license? I’ve got Vista and would love to get Windows 7, but I’m not sure if there are upgrade licenses available (my Google-fu appears to be weak and contradictory), and if there are, whether I’d face serious difficulties doing both an upgrade and a transfer.

I bought a system much like this one recently: AMD Phenom II X6 DIY PC. I tweaked it a bit, different case and power supply, doubled the RAM, added some Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste, but the motherboard and CPU are the same. At $410, it’s a hair over your stated budget, but not by much.

I built it less than a week ago, so I still haven’t put it through its paces, but so far I’m pleased.

Hmm…I’m really thinking that transferring the Windows license is going to be a problem. I’m happy keeping my old case, but not sure much else is worth saving: here are the specs:

Like I said, not sure there’s much worth saving there. Maybe the hard drive and the 2 GB memory. And the Windows license, if I can figure out how to make that worth doing.

Ok, Just browsing in the last 5 minutes I got this:

Gigabyte AMD Mobo:

Athlon II X4 Quad core 3.0 Ghz processor

AMD HD 5770 Graphics


600 Watt cooler master PSU

500 GB Hard Drive

Windows Home 7 Premium

Comes out to $540. Only $40 over budget though that doesn’t take into account shipping.

I might go totally hobo and try a dual core CPU, a 500 watt PSU, a 250 GB drive which will probably save you another $50-$70. This build assumes you are keeping your case.

Ooh, nice–I just realized you included a graphics card in there! There isn’t an optical drive, though, is there? But I could probably keep my hard drive and spend that money on an optical drive.

Is there a serious worry that my current case won’t fit these components? Is there anything else fiddly that I’d need–fans, that funky paste to attach the chipset to the MOBO, etc.? Is this a better deal than buying a DIY pack, since the DIY will have a case in it?

Thanks for the ideas!

Hmm, I missed the DIY build. It’s better,but it comes to over $100 more. The CPU is better, the hard drive is better, and as you mentioned, the case is included.

But you’d have to add windows 7 ($99) + the video card, another $125.

As long as your case is ATX, you’re fine, btw.

I’m pretty ignorant–how can I tell if my case is ATX? And am I right in thinking that the OEM Windows disc is not an upgrade, but is rather a standalone?

I thought this was gonna be a thread aboutChintendo.

Is your computer from dell, gateway or another similar outfit? If not, it’s probably ATX.

Does the back look like this:

And yes, the OEM is stand alone, it’s not an upgrade.

He’s linked it above. Looks like microATX to me.

Yep, it’s Gateway. How does that affect what I’ll be able to fit into it?

PSU won’t fit. Longer video cards won’t fit, but the 5770 isn’t long.